Thursday, March 12, 2015

Local Public Education News

As many readers have reported, seven Democratic senators, in the Washington State Legislature, including three from Seattle, voted to move forward a bill (SB 5748)  that would tie student test scores to teacher evaluation.  The vote was 26 yeas to 23 nays.

Without support from the following Democrats, SB 5748 would have failed:
•Annette Cleveland, Vancouver
•Mark Mullet, Issaquah
•Jamie Pedersen, Seattle
•David Frockt, Seattle
•Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Seattle
•Steve Hobbs, Lake Stevens
•Cyrus Habib, Bellevue

I'm not against using test scores in teacher evaluation, however, it is the weight of those scores in the evaluation that counts.  (A cursory look at the bill gives no indication of this; did anyone read it thru and see this?)

The Times weighed in this week with two op-eds, one with a now-why-didn't-I-think-of-that premise, the other an apparent ad for a charter school. 

The former brings this laughable statement:  What this tells us is that while Washington has become a world-class industry and technology leader, we are not fully investing in our educational systems.

No kidding.

Then it says, "And that system we rely on to prepare the workers, innovators and leaders..."  I am relying on public education - above out - to churn out good citizens FIRST.  Not workers. 

Then the op-ed goes on to hail a meeting today - Trust in Innovative - with a lot of government and business types who will talk about...innovating.

The charter op-ed has this title, "Web Programming is the new cursive for students" but it's written by the "founder and executive director" of a charter school.  The author goes on about how his school is doing in enrollment and how "committed" they are to students coding (at least twice).

I've written op-eds and you don't get much space for your argument and yet the Times thought it important that the author use up space to advertise his school.  Hmm.

63 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good news,

In Washington state, an effort to remove personal or philosophical opposition to vaccines as an authorized exemption from childhood school immunizations died in the state House after failing to come up for a vote before a key deadline. Religious and medical exemptions would have remained under that bill.

The bill sponsor, State Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, said she didn’t have the votes she needed. Pushback from parents and others opposed to the change had an effect on some lawmakers

Finally some common sense prevails over chicken littles.

Broack

Bad News said...

Am I misreading your post, Broack? Common sense would dictate requiring public school children to get vaccinated to protect our most vulnerable community members who cannot be vaccinated for legitimate reasons. Jenny McCarthy preaching against vaccines is not a legitimate reason for folks to not vaccinate children.

The mentality here is crazy to me. I wonder if any of the anti-vaccine crowd has a kid with peanut allergies? I mean, my kids can't take anything to school to protect their peanut allergies, but it's OK for them to not help protect kids under-going chemotherapy or some other equally serious medical event?

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand in this drive to forcibly vaccinate all kids is why no one is asking for the adult employees' vaccine records? Have they had their boosters or were they even vaccinated? Secondly, what about people who have been recently vaccinated? What about the kid's parents or guardian? Are they vaccinated?

HP

Anonymous said...

Bad news, don't waste your breath. Research indicates that the more "common sense" arguments you make and/or research studies you cite regarding the benefits of vaccinating all children who can be vaccinated, the more the anti-vaxxers will dig in their heals.

The best thing we can do is to protect our own children as best we can --- like making sure that all of their playdates are among vaccinated children only, keep working for "common sense" policies that address the dangers that the un- or under-vacinnated present to our most vulnerable, and to work to make anti-vaxxers pariahs in our communities.

--- swk

TiredOfIt said...

Wow, I believe this is the first time I've agreed with you 100%, swk. :)

Hey I am usually quite crunchy granola in my thinking and i've certainly railed against Big Pharma numerous times, and I think that all healthcare should be free, period, and that the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies and the AMA is a huge cartel designed to put money in their pockets and it is a travesty to make money off of people's suffering. Ahem.

However, even having said that, I also believe vaccines against disease and the almost eradication of many diseases are to me one of the greatest triumphs of Western medicine. If you or your kid is immunocompromised in some way or otherwise medically cannot be vaccinated, fine. Otherwise, vaccinate your kid or homeschool them. Space out the vaccines to the schedule you and Dr. Google feel is safer, or whatever, but if you are enjoying the benefits of a civilized society and herd immunity then contribute or isolate yourself accordingly.

Anonymous said...

"like making sure that all of their playdates are among vaccinated children only"

I always ask these questions before my kids have a play date:

1. Have you are any member of your family ever been a member of the communist party.

2. Are you a or do you socialize with homosexuals?

anti-vaxxers pariahs

Robyn said...

Back to the thread topic, I called my state Senator, Welles-Kohl, and said I would not vote for her in the next election. The man who answered the phone said I misunderstood the bill and Senator actually agrees with me (after I went on a rant about no money going to the classrooms, but to all this useless testing, highly paid administrators and the only people benefiting were the corporations selling us all this garbage).

So, what is it? Did he pull some major spin doctor move on me, or is the Bill not as it's described here?

My opinion is we are better off with less money if it is mostly kept in the classrooms. I say this because the Senator's office said this was in response to losing the no child left behind money. Who cares if we have to use that PLUS additional money to test test test to make more wealthy corporations?!

Greenwoody said...

Robyn, I don't know exactly what Kohl-Welles' staffer said to you, but I don't see how he can say she agrees with you.

First, there is no financial need at all for the state to pass this bill. NCLB is going to be revised this year and the waivers will be a thing of the past, perhaps as soon as this summer. Arne Duncan has already begun to pull back on the way he handles these waivers, in part due to Washington State rejecting his demands last year. So anyone who says that we'll lose money if we don't tie teacher evals to test scores is not being straight with you, or at minimum is ignorant of what is happening in Congress.

Second, we know - for a fact - that linking teacher evals to test scores degrades the quality of education in the classroom and turns schools into test prep centers. This is not good for anybody, especially for low-income kids and kids of color. There's a great article out in the New Yorker today on this very topic: http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/when-a-teachers-job-depends-on-a-childs-test

Kohl-Welles, Pedersen, and Frockt just sold out Seattle's students and Seattle's teachers, and they did it for nothing. Let's hope wiser heads prevail in the House.

Kate said...

Melissa, thank you for the vote on SB 5748 (evaluations tied to test scores). I am going to write my Senator, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and let her know how deeply disappointed I am that she supported this. Seems like some of our reliably sane legislators are falling prey to the ed reform agenda.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, do parents ask other parents if they have full-coverage auto insurance before they let their children ride in a car?

You see the odds of dying from measles in the US in the late 1950’s was closer to 1 in 10,000 of those infected. Today its even lower. The majority of the deaths where due to pneumonia which is easily treatable when known.

Compare that to the 1 in 5,000. odds that you will be killed in a car crash.

Sure people have a choice to get in a car or not, but I sure see all these kids being driven around and considering improved auto safety makes 1 in 5000 a huge number.

In 2000, the United States declared that measles was eliminated from this country. The United States was able to eliminate measles because it has a highly effective measles vaccine, a strong vaccination program that achieves high vaccine coverage in children and a strong public health system for detecting and responding to measles cases and outbreaks.

Eliminated? Then where did the current outbreak come from? Interesting that the USA has illuminated measles, but it has returned, Who is bringing the measles back to the USA?

Should we inject 400,000 million people or maybe it's better to stop others from bringing measles in. Who would not want to STOP the measles from entering in to the USA....now that is the important question.

Foil hats

Callingin said...

Robyn,

You aren't crazy. Below you will find a brief synopsis.

http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bill%20Reports/Senate/5748-S.E%20SBR%20APS%2015.pdf


I'm giving Kohl-Welles a phone call- now.

Anonymous said...

Greenwoody, the chances of ESEA/NCLB being reauthorized this year and waivers going away before a new administration is in office is slim to none.

The House version was derailed by the DHS debacle and that put it on life support.

The Alexander/Murray bipartisan Senate draft was supposed to be released last week and there's been no sight of it. Sen. Alexander said he wants a floor vote on this by mid-April. I think the Iran debacle will derail this.

If they do not get a bill to conference before debate on the debt ceiling and budget negotiations, we will not see another attempt at reauthorization until 2017 at the earliest because they are not going to reauthorize in a presidential election year.

I'm sorry to say but there's unlikely to be a reauthorization anytime soon.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

"Second, we know - for a fact"

You do not.

Here's what works. Random sampling of students by auditors. Make sure the students know they are not being effected by the outcome of the test, only the teacher's career will be.

Curriculum should be well designed and teaching methodologies engineered for each learning style. Teachers will facilitate and encourage students to learn the common core.

The common core teachers will be smart, goal oriented and drive results. Common core teachers will need to have plenty of support by schools and districts. A lucrative incentive system will reward Common Core teachers who's students achieve academic success over all obstacles.

Sound good!

CallingIn said...

I called Kohl-Welles office and expressed my disappointment. Kohl-Welles assistant informed me that language was added to the bill...in an effort to support Patty Murray's efforts in re-writing NCLB.

Patty Murray supports including test scores to teacher evaluations as an accountability measure. How will the feds tie federal dollars to test score results? More charter schools and other corporate backed initiatives.

Melissa Westbrook said...

HP, school is the reason why the question comes up for kids. I think that's pretty obvious. Sure, they should ask staff (and maybe they do).

Nobody is going to "forcibly" vaccinate anyone. But schools are a social good so it follows that there need to be norms to keep kids safe.

Actually, the question I used to ask is "do you have guns in your home?"

Anonymous said...

I'm more concerned if they have bullets!

Other concerns :

swimming pools
railroad tracks
Fireworks
Trampolines
Skateboard ramps
alcohol or drugs
pit bulls and other notorious breeds

Still CARS are the most dangerous.

The results show that more than 14,500 children died each year from unintentional injuries. Of those, 65% of the injuries were caused by motor vehicle injuries, railway accidents, or medical complications not coded for location of injury occurrence. The other 35% of unintentional injuries happened in a known location.

Henry Ford

Kathy Barker said...

No data- linking test scores to teacher evaluations helps students.
Welles-Kohl and Patty Murray are playing political games.

Data- vaccinations save lives.
Measles, mumps, smallpox, polio, etc vaccinations have made our daily lives safer. I am glad none of my children suffered from complications of measles- encephalitis, anyone? With community immunity, it isn't just my kids that avoided these disease, it is the defenseless members of our community.

Anonymous said...

My union sent an email about this today, and are urging everyone to call their reps to make sure it dies in the house.
The Senate passed SB 5748, which mandates the use of student state test scores in teacher evaluations. Please take a few moments to call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and leave a simple message for your Representatives: Oppose any bill that mandates using student state test scores in teacher evaluations. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Glad I Left

Anonymous said...

My 3rd grader was crying in the car over the SBAC prep - "You would hate it too mom if it was happening every day! I can't stand it!"

I'm Calling

Anonymous said...

I just asked my boss to remove customer feedback from my performance review! Can someone give me a ride to the unemployment office?

Sweetness

Anonymous said...

If the kids are going to be spending 1/3 of their time testing .... the teachers damn well better be evaluated on that activity. It's the fair thing. Why should the kids be the only ons who have to pay for this crap.

The ONLY thing that gets the teachers to stand up against this madness, is the accountability piece. Whatever it takes. Sh*@#$t or get off the pot!

Reader

Anonymous said...

Customer feedback on a performance review is very different from basing a teacher eval on student (read KIDS) test scores, sweet troll. The market-based ideology does not work in human services like education or medicine, as numerous studies have shown. (Start with Berliner & Nichols' book Collateral Damage.)

CT

Anonymous said...

No Reader, it's not the fair thing. Kids/teachers in lower income schools/districts will be penalized more than kids in higher income schools and districts because they 1) don't have as much access to tech, 2) are more likely to come to school hungry, 3) more likely to have a higher percentage of non-English speakers...the list goes on. When all the inputs are equalized, then it might be more fair, but again, this high-stakes testing/false accountability model also fails to take into account the developmental level of children among other things.

CT

Anonymous said...

Sen. Kohl-Welles has said that she thought it was "reasonable" to vote for the bill because of Sen. Mullet's striker amendment. The language she seems to be pointing to is this: "The federally mandated statewide assessments shall only be
used as one of the multiple measures of student growth once the office of the superintendent of public instruction and the steering committee described in subsection (7)(a) of this section have determined that the relevant assessment meets professionally accepted standards for being a valid and reliable tool for measuring student growth and have certified that the use of relevant federally mandated statewide assessments as one of the multiple measures of student growth will strengthen and not undermine the existing teacher evaluation system."

The problem is that it's irrational to use standardized test scores to measure teacher performance when it's not possible to control for variables. It's like saying we're going to use a Ouija board to measure teacher performance only if the Ouija board is found to be a valid measure of teacher performance. It was an idiotic vote, and it serves to further legitimize the irrational.

David Edelman

Anonymous said...

And once the door is opened to using standardized student test scores as part of a teacher's eval, it's hard to get that door closed again. Look at NY, where Cuomo is trying to up the test score percentage in a teacher's eval to 50%, with another 35% by a 1-time outside observer and only 15% by a building principal.

Some states with VAM have backed off a little on the percentages due to teacher lawsuits (like having your eval based on test scores of students you don't teach), but once it's there, you're screwed. Dorn certainly isn't going to ask to get rid of it.

CT

Anonymous said...

Frockt and Kohl-Welles sided with Their Crowd - the smug, relatively well heeled, reasonable well credentialed kind of toadies who flock around Gate$, praying and preying for crumbs from The Great One.
Politically, given that the "leaders" in WEA headquarters are more concerned with staying buddy-buddy with the likes of Frockt and Wells than they are with firing up their over worked dues paying members, Frockt & Wells really got nada to worry about come any primary season for themselves or any of their buddies.
The explanation Mr. Edelman passes along reminds me of the excuses I heard in 2012?? from WEA pooh-bahs about why they worked to help elect Rodney Tom in 2008 --- too clever, too inside ... too appallingly stupid to warrant a paycheck.
They really belong in the Alfred E. Nueman Hall of Political Cowards and Sell Outs, right below the banner proclaiming 'What

MeWorry?

Eric M said...

Most of these tests are fraudulent. SAT, for example, does NOT stand for "Scholastic Aptitude Test". It used to, but it turns out to be impossible to show any association between college success and SAT scores (beyond 1st quarter, freshman year)

The best predictor of college "success" (a hard thing to define broadly anyway, so let's use college grades)are grades in high school.

The SBAC, with its artificial high-cut scores and plan to label 2/3 of students as "failing" is just the latest model.

These tests are money pumps, that's all. Pumping money out of your schools and neighborhoods.

Maneuvering the tests as a tool to evaluate teachers is well-understood to be statistically invalid and pointless for the purposes of evaluation. There is just too much variability in the test subjects, which are not widgets coming off an assembly line, but human children. In general, testing results start to assemble enough statistical validity to overcome the inherent variability at about the school level, with samples around 1,000 students. But at that level, of course, what you're primarily measuring at that point is the depth of poverty and its attendant pathologies in the school's attendance zone.

Anyone who has some understanding of statistics can grasp this. It's just math, and you can fool hillbillies by waving your wand around, but that doesn't change the realities of the math. Here's the American Statistical Association on this subject: Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.

Obviously. So, why, then?

The testing-industrial complex is at a crossroads. People are resisting. The right questions are being asked. The Opt-Out movement is growing.

How, then, to get testing institutionalized?

Making it part of a so-called "teacher evaluation" system would definitely making it harder to abandon the SBAC.

No teacher objects to being evaluated.
But when the evaluation is as dependent on chance as the flip of a coin, that's just stoopid.

For the record, the argument that teachers let this happen to kids, so they should get a taste of their own medicine, that's just heartbreaking. It was legislators and money grubbing lobbyists. Watch the Music Man.

Calling BS said...

"The federally mandated statewide assessments shall only be
used as one of the multiple measures of student growth once the office of the superintendent of public instruction and the steering committee described in subsection (7)(a) of this section have determined that the relevant assessment meets professionally accepted standards for being a valid and reliable tool for measuring student growth and have certified that the use of relevant federally mandated statewide assessments as one of the multiple measures of student growth will strengthen and not undermine the existing teacher evaluation system."

Over-reach of the federal government and if you don't believe test results will foster the privatization effort--I have news for you.

Poor children are being used as pawns.

Shameful that Seattle reps worked in conjunction with LItzow and others that promote privatization.

Greenwoody said...

MeWorry? has it right. WEA did a better job last year of mobilizing against this bill. This year they've not been very engaged in mobilizing the grassroots to fight against an ed reform agenda. They are making the same mistake teachers unions made in other states - trying to be buddy-buddy and cut deals with moderate Democrats, who are happy to sell out teachers and students at the earliest opportunity. That said, this can still be killed in the House - especially since there are Republicans who aren't wild about this either.

People who are attending legislative town halls this weekend need to make it very clear that you oppose linking teacher evals to test scores. Give 'em hell.

As to swk's comments about ESEA reauthorization, you have your DC sources, and I have mine. I stand by my statement that it is reasonable to expect ESEA reauthorization by the summer.

But let's say you're right. That still doesn't address my other point, which is that there is a pile of evidence showing that linking teacher evals to test scores severely undermines actual education of children. This is a bad policy and it has no place in our schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes the "Dems" who side with ed reform are going to find themselves very alone during election season.

Mark Ahlness said...

Melissa,
I'm very disturbed when you say this: "I'm not against using test scores in teacher evaluation, however, it is the weight of those scores in the evaluation that counts."

Using student test scores in teacher evaluations is wrong, wrong, wrong. On so many levels and for so many reasons. It has been repeatedly proved inaccurate and incredibly destructive - to children, teachers, and their schools.

Do you think using student test scores in teacher evaluations is ok? Yes or no?

Is just a little bit of a bad thing ok?

Come on. You can't get away with that.

Anonymous said...

As a footnote to previous comments, I've learned that one cannot trust what staffers say on behalf of the people they work for. Here, for example, is an exact quote from one of Sen. Kohl-Welles' staffers, sent to me in March 2012:

"The Senate budget that was released today does not cut k-12 or higher education at all. We have always fully funded what is defined as "basic education" and began the process of phasing in the new definition of basic education in last year's budget but definitely not to the extent that many/most in the Legislature probably wanted. The new definition of basic education is set to be fully phased in by 2018."

Got that? We have always fully funded what is defined as "basic education."

David Edelman

Anonymous said...

Emailed David Frockt my intense disappointment yesterday over his vote in support of this.

I also received this from Stand for Children:

We collected 20,000 petition signatures asking lawmakers to protect school funding -- and they listened.
Last night, the senate passed the Protect School Funding bill on a bipartisan vote of 26-23. This is a huge, hard-won victory for Washington students.
Will you join me in thanking your lawmaker, Senator David Frockt, for voting to protect school funding?
Yesterday’s vote was critical. We are now one step closer to freeing Washington from No Child Left Behind and restoring more than $40 million to our public schools.
This money is more critical than ever at a time when Washington students are being shortchanged. We can’t afford to lose any more teachers, cancel any more pre-kindergarten classes, or shut down any more afterschool programs. Our schools need every cent we can give them.
Take a moment to send a quick thank you note to Senator David Frockt, whose vote helped make the difference for Washington students.
The Protect School Funding bill heads to the state house next, where it will face another tough battle. But with your support and a growing movement of 20,000 Washington parents, teachers, and community members, I’m confident we can accomplish anything.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Dave Powell
Executive Director


HP

Anonymous said...

Love the propaganda from Stand On Children. Protect School Funding bill? More like Teach to the Test bill or Narrowing the Curriculum Even More bill, or Punish Low Income Schools, Teachers, & Kids bill.
But astroturfing does pay well, and no accountability is needed by them. It's only necessary for the public schools they advocate against.

CT

Anonymous said...

I think you could, in theory, use test scores to evaluate teacher performance but only if you normalize to a constant. You can only compare teachers within a single school (with a consistent student body) and preferably a single subject. You can't compare between schools because the student body varies. You can only look at a trend within a single school. Furthermore, you can't pull out the scores for one year, or even two years to make a judgement. You have to record a trend over several years so that you know the error for the data before you can use the data effectively.

Nothing that the SPS have done in the last 15 years indicates to me that they have the capability or consistency to use these data appropriately. For example, if you change the test (as they do all the time) the data must be thrown out until a new baseline is established. If you redraw the school boundaries, the data must be thrown out until a new baseline is established. If you change the curriculum......Etc. Etc.

Test scores cannot be used to evaluate performance responsibly, effectively and correctly by this district administration.

-No Confidence

Anonymous said...

To me, this further reinforces the need to separate basic education and instruction from some other things.

I'd like to see all standardized testing, teacher evaluation, and professional development, conducted in isolation.

In isolated finances, in isolated and separate facilities, in isolated and separate times, like summer.

Presently, all of this is a thief, and stealing from instructional time.

-NNNCr

Anonymous said...

I had the same response regarding Melissa's comment saying that she is not against using tests in teacher evaluations.

This needs to be addressed. Given Eric M.'s analysis, how do you support your statement?

--enough already

Anonymous said...

No Confidence,

If you think about it a bit more carefully you'll see that the same reasons you can't compare teachers at different schools with different populations also apply within a school. In fact, those same reasons even apply within a school, to teachers teaching the same subject and grade level. Students within a school are not homogeneous - one teacher may teach a class of ELL students, another may teach "regular" classes in which many students have IEPs, another may teach an honors class.* It would obviously be just as silly to compare the scores of these teachers as it would be to compare the scores of teachers at different schools.

Even if you took one teacher's scores from five or ten years, it would be nearly impossible to draw complete and accurate conclusions about the teacher. Let's take a hypothetical 3rd grade teacher, whose scores are lower each year than the last over a 5-year period. You can't actually know whether the teaching quality has decreased, the student population has changed, the 2nd grade teacher is doing a bad job, the test has changed to increase expectations, the students are less invested in the test, the teacher has spent less time doing test prep, or another factor has influenced the results. The reality of public schools - where teaching assignments, administrators, students, testing, curriculum, neighborhoods, etc. are constantly changing - is just not one in which testing can provide meaningful data on the teacher level.

-Parent&Teacher

*Even two teachers teaching a class with the same title may have very different populations due to scheduling of other courses, parent pressures, counselors "matching" students with specific teachers, etc. To give you a concrete example, at my school there are 4 10th-grade Social Studies teachers. One is known for going out their way to help struggling students (the others are not) - so counselors do everything they can to get struggling students into that teacher's class. As a result, her student population looks very different than the populations of the other classes with the same title.

Anonymous said...

Agreed NNNCr!

-No Confidence

Anonymous said...

Freshman year curriculum night, the teacher for 1st period class told us that our kids would not learn as much as the students in her other classes because they were all half-asleep & couldn't engage, think or retain as well. So they could cover less material too.

How is that accounted for with test data being used to evaluate teachers? Will everyone be fighting for 1st period planning period.

-HS Parent

wondering said...

I have to wonder if this bill will survive McCleary. Isn't it just another unfunded mandate?

Anonymous said...

If you would read more carefully what I said Parent& Teacher, you would find that we are in agreement. You simply restated my points in more detail. I have thought about this issue very carefully.

-No Confidence

Anonymous said...

Parent&Teacher, let me begin by stating (again) that I don't support the use of state test scores in teacher evaluation, due mostly to technical and logistical feasibility concerns (especially at the secondary level).

You provide a sound rationale why test scores may vary teacher-to-teacher, year-to-year, etc. and why, therefore, they shouldn't be used in teacher evaluation.

But let me ask you this: What variables do you think are valid and reliable in evaluating teachers if the students they have vary so drastically?

That's the problem I have with the ardent pushback against the use of test scores in teacher evaluation. Given all of the independent variables that could possible affect the evaluation of teachers, what are some criteria that should be used that would give you confidence?

--- swk

Anonymous said...

I think it might be quite useful to cross-correlate the data rather than rely on simple score averages. For example, if individual students A, B, and C, each experienced a drop in their individual scores upon encountering teacher X (regardless of the class average), you might have a useful correlation. It could be that there is a problem with teaching quality or experience, or there could be a problem with the classroom composition and learning environment (as Parent& Teacher points out). Either way, changes could be instigated to improve the quality of education.

Do I trust this district to responsibly develop these metrics.

No.

-No Confidence

Anonymous said...

I was just going to ask the same question as swk. I completely believe that test scores might not be the best--or even a somewhat decent--way to evaluate teachers, but what are some better options?

Something Eric M said above really struck me: Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions.

So does this suggest that teachers don't really matter? Or that the a bad teacher is really not that worse than a good teacher? It's clear that other factors are much more important, but are we saying then that teacher quality doesn't really matter?

Or is it just that the standardized tests don't do a good job of capturing what was learned? If that's it, what does? I've seen some bad teachers, and I know of many complaints to principals, but that doesn't seem to do the trick... What will? Observation is costly and therefore limited, and it's hard to say how reflective that is of everyday conditions anyway.

If teachers are really such a small factor in student success, we need to start devoting a lot more time to the basics--class size, solid curricula, access to materials, wraparound services, etc. How can teachers really be expected to do a great job when their classes are full, they don't have a decent curriculum (if they have one at all) and students don't have the supports they need? It's infuriating.

HIMSmom

Anonymous said...

swk,

Let me reiterate that, although you don't support using state test scores for teacher evaluations, some of the purpose of this student testing has evolved into using them for teacher evaluations (as you concurred with me on a previous thread).

How do you reconcile working in an industry that promotes that which you oppose?

It is almost impossible to have a "what-if" conversation about valid teacher evaluations as long as Gates and Co. have promoted this linking which you claim to oppose, yet support implicitly, by working on these tests. Kind of disingenuous to ask Parent/Teacher what would be an ideal way to evaluate her/himself as a professional while the proposal in the legislature does not offer an alternative. Nobody asks us, "What do you think?" until after proposals are in legislatures or already in law, mostly funded by Gates, Walton, Broad et al.'s campaign contributions.

An extreme analogy would be: It's like working for the defense industry while opposing war. It's insulting for the contractor to say to the soldier, "I oppose war" when the contractor supplied the weapons.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

enough already, this will be the last time that I address you directly. I thought you would have clued in by now that I've stopped answering any of your direct questions.

I have found all or most of the questions you pose to me to be rhetorical and/or "begging the question." I'm not going to respond to those.

Finally, you've turned to accusations and statements of a personal nature --- or at least as personal as two anonymous people posting on a community forum can be personal --- and I'm not down with that.

You can continue to address me and waste your time, but you won't get another response from me.

Have a great weekend.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Cognitive dissonance can be a real bummer, swk.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

HIMS mom said: "I know of many complaints to principals, but that doesn't seem to do the trick...."

This is the heart of the problem, and the only way to a solution that actually works (as opposed to one that "seems" to work, while actually failing all constituents -- teachers, students, and Seattle residents alike).

Stop for a minute and consider how this works in parochial and private schools, and in private colleges and universities. Not all teachers are wonderful, and many wonderful teachers are great for some kids, not so great for others. But "truly bad" teachers -- and there are not a lot of them -- but there are some -- are handled by principals (or heads of schools, or whatever). Parents complain. They march into headmistress's offices and demand that their children be switched to a different, better math or Spanish, or whatever teacher -- and pretty soon, a teacher who teaches poorly, or fails to communicate, or is sadistic, -- is simply a liability that the school won't tolerate, and they are fired (or asked to resign), or moved into a nonteaching position where they may be better suited.

The current system fails to perform this function -- and thus fails to adequately train and support weak/struggling teachers, or to eliminate the few who really need to go. It seems to me this happens for a couple of reasons:

1. We don't have a strong principal corps, and we do nothing to support "good" school leadership -- and to correct or eliminate bad ones. Much of this is because we have not had good leadership at the superintendent level -- so that principals do not see good leadership modeled, and the weak ones learn (from the central administration) to meet challenges from teachers by devaluing and undermining them (and from parents by ignoring them, or threatening to have them arrested for trespassing). (And the "Gates-style" principal academies don't help. They teach bad management skills, and only make this problem worse.)
2. The downtown administration should be a resource and a help to the schools -- but instead operates as a hindrance. Schools spend their time trying to figure out how to "fend off" downtown folks, or neutralize them. How often does someone at the school level ever think -- "Let me call downtown. They will help with this!" Hah! Fat chance!

THIS is the work we need Mr. Nyland (and needed Mr. Banda) to do. The heart of schooling is two words: children. learning. That is it. We supply ALL the rest of it (teachers, buildings, books, curricula, extra curricular activities, buses, Title IX compliance programs, an HR department downtown, assessments, schools boards, school board policies, etc. --) ALL of it is (or is supposed to be) in service of those two simple words. Children learning.

If what we are doing isn't using the available time and money to advance "children learning," -- we shouldn't be doing it. If it is actively INTERFERING with "children learning," as I would submit much of the federal ed reform effort does, as well as much of the downtown staff, (as do certain of the union's work rules and policies -- including the union's total refusal to help defend teachers against retaliation, etc. --) well, then we REALLY shouldn't be doing or condoning those things.

These are our kids. We have 13 school years (or so) to pour our hearts, our treasure, our best ideas, into helping them learn as much about the world and the way it works as we possibly can -- and then they are gone -- out of our hands and grown.

I have to believe that there is a special place in hell for those who are currently destroying the efforts of parents and communities to deliver schools that focus on "children learning" through overt politicization and attempts to monetize education for private gain.

Jan

Anonymous said...

Hear, Hear!

Thank you Jan. I agree completely.

-HS Parent

Watching said...

I've also seen Stand for Children's propaganda and they are evil.

Linh-Co said...

Jan,

I don't know where you live, but PLEASE consider running for school board in November.

Anonymous said...

swk,

To be honest, I don't believe any "variables" are entirely "valid and reliable" in evaluating teachers. Words like "variables" and "reliable" suggest you want me to provide a number, a piece of data, that will accurately capture a teacher's worth. I know we live in the era of big data, but I reject the idea that any number(s) can accurately capture the complexities of teaching. So I'll flip your question into an answerable one: how should teachers be evaluated? And I think the answer lies in a combinations of outside observations by administrators and master teachers (the TAP* program is very interesting in this regard - as a teacher I'm much more interested in hearing the feedback of someone who's seen as a great, veteran teacher than the feedback of a VP with two years teaching under their belt).

Finally, I think the whole idea of teacher evaluation systems is a red herring. Under any decent evaluation system, with competent administrators, you can actually get rid of a bad teacher (I've seen it done at my school multiple times). What we should really be talking about is how to **mentor** new teachers, because the real work of creating great teachers takes place in student teaching and in the first 3 years in the classroom. Right now we're all arguing about evals (which at the end of the day are going to keep the vast majority of teachers right where they are, doing exactly what they're doing now) - when what we should be talking about is how to best mentor new teachers to make them great.

-Parent&Teacher

*TAP program: http://www.infoagepub.com/products/downloads/tap_overview.pdf

Anonymous said...

I generally agree with Parent&Teacher. I've had a number of jobs in my varied career, and I've never worked in a profession where the legislature made such a mess of how employees are evaluated.

The closest thing I can compare my experience as a teacher to is when I worked at Microsoft in the early 90s. Evaluations were a little nutty, with all that nonsense about quantifiable goals, but the actual evaluation simply came down to how much my immediate supervisor valued my work--both the tasks I was personally responsible for and my ability to work with other people on a team. There was, as I dimly recall, a very simple set of criteria for how we were evaluated, but at bottom a human being was, taking into consideration a large number of variables, making her best judgment based on her experience, analysis, and, it must be said, biases. It was a highly flawed system, but nowhere near as flawed as how teachers are evaluated.

The best evaluations I received were when I worked in construction. I worked with a master carpenter, who was familiar with what I could do and not do, and he kept me employed and gave me raises according to what I could actually acomplish and his estimation of my value.

Likewise, when I worked with a materials engineer in the Forest Service, I was evaluated by a set of standard criteria, but ultimately it came down to an experienced supervisor relying on judgment, perception, and biases. Since he was biased in my favor, I never found fault with the system, imperfect as it was.

Now, as a teacher, I waste time preparing "evidence" and "artifacts" for the sole purpose of helping my supervisor justify the good evaluation he's going to give me. Not one second of this extra work benefits my students. It's Kafkaesque madness.

David Edelman

Anonymous said...

If you are concerned or curious about how student growth is used in evaluations in WA state, you should check out the TPEP (teacher principal evaluation project) website, it covers what the law says and what evals in WA are all about.

For instance, even if state test scores are mandated, other measures must ALSO be used (multiple measures are the rule of the land). And even if state test scores are not used, student growth via other metrics still has to be part of the evaluation.

I'm not trying to suggest what is best, just letting you know that there is a resource on what the law says. Some of you may find it reassuring; others, maybe not so much. But at least you'll know what to engage on.

http://tpep-wa.org/student-growth-overview/

-Ramona H

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for Melissa to respond about agreeing that test scores should be used in teacher evaluations.

If you believe what you said, then own up to it. Otherwise, it needs clarification.

--enough already

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Thank you for that, Parent&Teacher. Despite my clumsy wording, I think you gathered my intent: How should teachers be evaluated?

And I further agree with you that this should be about helping and mentoring new teachers first and not so much about getting rid of bad teachers.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

How teachers should be evaluated: http://www.nea.org/grants/46326.htm

How teachers should not be evaluated:
https://ed.stanford.edu/news/do-student-test-scores-provide-solid-basis-evaluate-teachers

CT

Anonymous said...

And...How other countries evaluate teachers:
https://medium.com/@davidknuffke/who-rates-teachers-this-way-e1758db02655

CT

Anonymous said...

Lastly https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/creating-comprehensive-system-evaluating-and-supporting-effective-teaching.pdf

CT

Anonymous said...

CT, thanks for those links. I especially liked the NEA piece, which I think I've seen before.

And, yes, value-added models are junk science, as aptly demonstrated in the Stanford piece. These are models that were developed by economists, not educators (or even educational researchers). How any critical thinker or policy maker could put any stock in these models is beyond me.

And in Melissa's defense --- although I'm sure she doesn't need me to defend her --- even the NEA believes that "high quality developmentally appropriate, standardized tests that provide valid, reliable, timely and meaningful information regarding student learning and growth" can contribute toward an authentic teacher evaluation. It is the use of statewide standardized summative tests that are not designed to evaluate teachers that is objectionable.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

You're welcome, swk.

PESB is using VAM though, according their website and various studies coming out.

http://data.pesb.wa.gov/ (scroll down)

http://www.cedr.us/papers/working/CEDR%20WP%202014-2.pdf

CT